The Surveillance of Chrome and the Privacy of Brave

The Surveillance of Chrome and the Privacy of Brave

The issue of privacy has impacted tech companies and users alike. First it was Facebook, now it is Google Chrome.

Chrome’s 10th anniversary was welcomed with a new browser design. Rounded tabs, an omnibox that shows results directly on the search bar, and addresses, passwords, and even credit card numbers are filled in more precisely than before. But one change has caused worry among some of its users, particularly Matthew Green.

Green, a cryptographic engineer and security technologist, has voiced out his reservations about a small, but potentially significant change to Chrome’s update: Users are now automatically logged-into Chrome when they are signed-in on other Google products such as Gmail. This new feature is called the Identity consistency between browser and cookie jar (HN).

One of his concerns lies in the question of the sync button added to the updated menu just. The Google Chrome team explains that sync is not a reflex to logging in. An additional step of consent is needed in order to activate sync. But, according to Green, the look and placement of the button perpetuate a user interface dark pattern where it is easy for users to accidentally activate sync. And when syncing, user data is handed over to Google servers.

Another question presented by Green: if he logs in and Google and chooses to sync his data, will Google also take his past data (the data while he was not logged in)?

Amidst the back and forth evoked by the issue of big data surveillance and user privacy, one browser begs to differ and its popularity has been steadily and quietly growing. With over four million users; Brave Browser, an Ethereum-based browser, claims to be private and secure, it blocks ads (but users can opt in on ads) and trackers. Data will always stay on user’s devices.

Brave uses Basic Attention Tokens (BAT), an ERC-20 token, to incentivize web content contributors. These tokens are generated by users when they browse using Brave.

In their quest to protect user privacy, Brendan Eich, founder of Brave, filed a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) breach complaint in Ireland and UK against Google. The complaint accuses Google of auctioning user data to hundreds of companies.

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